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Let’s talk. Let’s listen.


Earlier this month an acquaintance from high school passed away. We grew up a few blocks from each other but was a few years older than me. He was in Vocal Jazz. I was in the Stage Band. Music was a big deal in my high school and the band & vocal groups toured together often and I got to know him a bit a during our travels.

He was a totally cool guy — one of those high school icons. Everybody knew who he was. He was kind, friendly, outgoing, and had a razor-sharp wit that would make the entire group burst out laughing. He could quickly and deftly put a bully in his place (which would also make the entire group burst out laughing). If anyone had asked me to define the word “extrovert” I would have immediately said his name.

We knew each other but we weren’t more than acquaintances. We always said hello to each other in the halls and I was thrilled when he accepted my Facebook friend request 30 years (OMG yes 30 years!) after we graduated.

The thing is, I never told him how much I appreciated his sense of humour, his extrovertedness, or the way he just shut down those mean kids in high school (Man, he had cojones!).

And now it’s too late.

I know the reason behind the Bell Let’s Talk initiative is to remove stigma from, and have open, honest discussions about, mental health. Yes, we do need to do that but we also need to talk to each other. Really talk — and really listen.

The internet was supposed to be promote the interconnectedness of everything. Email, then social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat) were supposed to bring us closer together so we could relate to each other. Instead, people post irrelevant memes and advertisers clog the space peddling their wares.

So, here is my challenge on this Bell Let’s Talk Day — start talking. Say what is important. Respond to other people. Open a discussion. I don’t care if it’s about religion, politics, books, cookie recipes, Superheroes or science fiction. Just have a real conversation.

And remember if someone is talking, LISTEN. Listen to understand, not to reply. Set aside your self, your opinions, your beliefs, and accept someone for who they are and from where they come. Watch this excellent TEDx talk by Celeste Headlee and learn to have better conversations — in person and on social media. And as that old Bell TV commercial used to tell us, reach out and touch someone.

Happy 2018


Rebel_sm.JPGThe last three months of 2017 were fortunately rather quiet but there are a few events to highlight.

In October, a new family member joined us, Rebel. He’s a Rhodesian Ridgeback/Lab cross.

Our son came from Ottawa to visit us on his reading week in October then again over the Christmas holidays.

Our daughter is in the process of applying to various universities in Ontario.

We’ve had to re-learn what winter is all about. With two vehicles, we had to buy two sets of snow tires. We had block heaters installed in both vehicles too. We think it was worth the investment as the temperatures are bitterly cold.

It has been a quiet fourth quarter and we’re thankful since we had such a hectic summer.

Thanks to all of my readers and I wish the best for everyone in 2018.

The first month in Winnipeg


Packed up in San Antonio

We’ve been in Winnipeg just a little over a month. Here’s a recap of what happened on our move.

Our packing day was scheduled for 28 August. The packing crew arrived and packed boxes. Normally, the following day the truck is loaded but the truck that was supposed to take our goods to Canada was stuck in Houston and due to Hurricane Harvey, could not get to San Antonio in time. Another truck picked up our goods on 30 August and then our goods would be transferred to the Canadian truck whenever it managed to get to San Antonio.

I was concerned about this because every move where we’ve had stuff transfer from one truck to another, boxes or other items have been lost or damaged. However, due to the hurricane, there wasn’t much we could do about it.

We arrived in Winnipeg late in the afternoon of 31 August. We reported to the Customs and Border Security Agency (CBSA) at the airport where they went through our entire inventory of household goods that were following later on the truck. We alerted them that our vehicles had left San Antonio on 23 August and were waiting at the bonded warehouse in Winnipeg for us to collect them. We filled out lots of paperwork. We thought we had done everything correctly so we proceeded to the hotel.

On 1 September, (Friday before the Labour Day weekend), picked up the keys to our RHU from CFHA then we worked to retrieve our cars. At that point, we found out that we should have gone to the central CBSA office (not CBSA at the airport) to officially clear customs. We ended up filling out even more paperwork and after several trips between the CBSA office and the bonded warehouse, and almost $700 in fees to the Registrar of Imported Vehicles, we had our cars.

We spend the Labour Day weekend having internet installed, purchasing kitchen appliances. (Luckily, there were some good Labour Day sales and we got a bit of a discount.), and cleaning our new home.

The following week started in a rush with our daughter starting at a new school and my husband starting work. Our appliances were delivered and we were told we our furniture would be arriving on 8 September. We were quite pleased as that would mean only one week in a hotel.

Arriving in Winnipeg

On 8 September, we met the truck driver at the CBSA office and filled out even more paperwork to claim our goods. We were also told that we must not sell or give away any items on our inventory list (including the cars) for at least one calendar year from our entry date or we will have to pay duty on those items.

Not surprisingly, when the truck unloaded our goods, there was a box missing. It was the “parts/set-up box.” For those of you unfamiliar with a military move, whenever the movers disassemble a piece of furniture, they wrap the parts in paper, tape it, then write the name of the piece of furniture on the package, (e.g., “master bed parts”). Also, at the end of the packing day, any odds and ends lying around the house that weren’t previously packed, get put in the parts box. These items can include hooks for a specific picture frame, an extension cord, toys or pens that have been retrieved from behind large pieces furniture, etc.

So, on arrival, our beds could not be reassembled. It’s been a month and we’re still sleeping with our mattresses directly on the floor. A sub-contractor was assigned by the moving company to make the repairs but he’s been “waiting on parts” for almost 3 weeks.

Also in the last month, we’ve attended 3 social functions, I had a job interview (and I got the job!), our daughter has been busy with homework. We prepared claims for the Destination Inspection Trip (DIT), the move itself, and our final out-clearance from the U.S.A.

The main and 2nd floors of the house are organized and staged (except for the beds on the floor). The basement is still a mess though. We don’t have a garage with this house so we decided to buy a garden shed and pay for the installation service. If we had arrived in Winnipeg during the summer, we would have built the shed ourselves but now that school/work are back in full swing and winter just around the corner, we felt the installation service was worth the extra expense. (Also, the shed was almost half-price so that helped off-set the installation costs.)

It’s been a very busy month. I can’t believe it’s October already.

Another year, another move


Photo credit: Robert Linsdell

Late yesterday evening, we got a posting message — orders to move. After only 366 days after we arrived in San Antonio, we found out that we are headed back to Canada — Winnipeg, MB!

The COS date on our posting message is 14 August 2017 but we probably have until the end of August to complete the move — a mere 6 weeks to complete an international move.

During this time we will have to:

  • Do a DIT (hopefully we can move into military housing). If not we’ll have to do the full HHT to find a civilian house to rent.
  • Do a complete household inventory in order to clear customs. Fortunately, our previous one isn’t that out of date so we can use that as our basis.
  • Prepare to import to Canada the two cars we bought in the U.S. ensuring they meet Canadian road safety standards.
  • Do all the other stuff necessary to move like:
    • address changes
    • enrolling the kid in new school and arrange transfer of records
    • arrange for utilities to be disconnected at old location and connected at new location
    • contact doctors, dentists, specialists and get copies of medical records
    • etc.

How do I feel about moving to Winnipeg?

I think I’m going to like Winnipeg (also known as Winterpeg). The climate is much more suitable for me. I’m not a big fan of the heat in San Antonio. I think I was only really comfortable here from December to February.

We have several friends already in Winnipeg including one I’ve known since grade school and another since high school plus several military families we’ve met over the years.

I’ll be sad to leave the friends I’ve made here in Texas but that’s military life.

Tips for healthy eating while moving house


Very soon, it will be time for many military families to move house. For some families, it will be a door-to-door move with maybe only a few nights in a hotel. However, families doing a cross-country or overseas move, might spend a few weeks in hotels and eating in restaurants.

For the first few days, eating in restaurants is fun – a novelty! However, if you’re like me, you may quickly get tired of extra-large servings of high fat, high sugar, high salt foods with very few fruits and vegetables.

Here are a few tips that I’d like to share for eating healthy “on the road.”

Buy food at grocery stores

Most grocery stores have healthy, ready-made meals in the deli section including sandwiches and salads. Pre-cut fruits and vegetables are also available in party trays (ideal for families) and single serving sizes. Recently, I saw peeled hard boiled eggs in packs of two. You can also buy bread, buns, deli meat, pre-sliced cheeses, etc. and make your own sandwiches. Often the deli department will have little pouches of condiments for sale as well (ask if you don’t see them).

Get a fridge

Most hotel rooms will provide a small fridge on request. Ask for one when you make your reservation. If you’re driving to your destination, consider buying an iceless cooler that plugs into your car (12v) as well as a standard household outlet (110v).

A fridge will allow you to store fruits, vegetables, salads, yogurt, and other healthy food options in your hotel room. You can store milk and juice and make breakfast right in your room. This is a great option if you have young children.

Ask about a microwave oven

Ask about a microwave oven when you’re making a reservation or checking-in. Many hotels have a small one that guests can use to warm baby bottles. Some hotels (mostly those without a restaurant or dining room), may allow you to use the microwave heat up frozen dinners.

Pack a few extra items

As well as eating healthy, I try as best as I can to be environmentally friendly. This means I avoid using disposable dishes, plastic cutlery and Styrofoam cups. So, I’ve either taken these items in the car with us OR packed them in my suitcase if we’ve travelled by air.

  • Grocery bags: One standard sized grocery bag and a small one are ideal for picking up a few things and carrying them to and from your hotel room. It’s much better than having dozens of plastic bags everywhere.
  • Dish set: We have this camping dish set for 4 people. It is great because it packs up in a space-saving modular unit. You could also choose to bring one place setting per person of your own dishes.
  • Cutlery: We have this plastic set of cutlery that we use for school lunches. It’s compact but flimsy for anything but pre-cut lunch foods. If I was going to purchase something new I’d get the sturdier 4-piece stainless steel set. It’s nice that it comes with chopsticks because sometimes we’d pick up sushi at the grocery store.
  • Knife and cutting board: A multi-tool knife is great but I don’t want the same knife that opened the jug of radiator fluid to be used to cut my apple. A basic paring knife with a sheath (safety!) and a small cutting board is great. You can slice grapes for toddlers so they don’t choke and chop apples for the youths with braces.
  • Soap: Hotel shampoos and soaps do not do a very good job of washing dishes or clothing. I always travel with a bottle of Camp Suds – wash anything, anywhere.

Remember, moving house is a very stressful event even if you’re happy about the move. Eating healthy is important to keep up your strength and energy!

Reflections on (almost) one year in Texas


Now that we have lived in Texas for almost one year, I thought I would take the time to reflect on a couple of my experiences.


The United States is one of three countries in the world that have not adopted the metric system. For someone who was educated using only the metric system, imperial units are extremely confusing, not to mention mentally taxing.

How many metres in a kilometre? The prefix “kilo” means thousand so there are 1000 metres in one kilometre.

How many yards in a mile? Who the hell knows.

I was using the Google Map app on my iPhone as a navigation system in my car but when it politely said, “In one thousand feet, turn left,” I had no idea how far that was. I now navigate with Apple Maps because I can set the default to metric units regardless of what country I’m in. Not so for Google Maps.

I’ve given up listening to the radio for weather reports. All I can remember about Fahrenheit is the Foreigner song, Hot Blooded where he’s “got a fever of one hundred and three.” If it’s a fever, it’s hotter than body temperature so there’s no way I’m venturing outside.

Celsius is SO easy. Just remember this little poem:

Zero is freezing.
Ten is not.
Twenty is pleasing.
Thirty is hot.


I learned the difference between “you,” “y’all,” and “all y’all.”

you y'all all y'all

I do not say “aboot,” and no my American friend, I’m not going to say, “out and about” just to amuse you. I don’t ask you to speak “cowboy” and laugh at you.

Let’s talk


bell_lavieJanuary 25th has been designated “Let’s talk” day, a day to raise awareness about mental health and the stigma surrounding it. This morning on Facebook I read the posts of some military spouses who are dealing with mental health issues. I commend them for talking about it. Mental and emotional stress can take their toll on us.

Moving is stressful. One British survey suggests that moving is the most stressful event after the death of a close loved one and the stress of moving can last three months after the move has completed.

Imagine not just moving from one house to another, but moving across the country or to another country. You have immediately doubled or tripled the stress. You have no family or friends in the new region. Now, imagine that you do not speak the language in the new region. You are not familiar with the culture in the new region. You are an outsider.

When arriving in this new place, you are expected to set up house, get the kids enrolled in school, and find a job. All of this can be overwhelming. Even trying to figure out how to get your trash and recycling picked up can be a time-consuming challenge because every municipality does it differently.

Managing your financial affairs, trying to find a health care provider, helping with children’s homework all when your spouse is deployed or on exercise (during this time it is most likely that the water heater will explode and the car will break down) is stressful too.

Depression can set in when you realize that your life is a blur and you feel you’ve got nowhere to turn. Anxiety can set in because you are always on edge in anticipation for the next stressful event to arrive. You don’t feel that you can confide in your friends, either because you’ve lost touch with them since the last move, or because you’ve just met them. Additionally, most civilians have no idea what military life is like. There is a three month long waiting list to see a therapist in your new city.

If you’re a military spouse reading this, please know you’re not alone. Even though we all go through it, we’re all different people. Get help. It’s tough, but stay strong.

You are welcome to talk about your issues in the comments below. Feel free to use a pseudonym if you wish to remain anonymous.